25 May 2021
It's Australian Made Week this week, which should be a time when we celebrate Australian made products and the Australian businesses that support them, produce them and give locals jobs here in our communities, like mine on the north side of Brisbane. But, instead, we are here in Australian Made Week to talk about the government's failure to prioritise rebuilding jobs and wages in the Australian manufacturing sector, and I am on my feet, ropeable about this.
Last week the Prime Minister came to Geebung in my electorate of Lilley and he did a photo-op with a hammer and a nail on a construction site. The hammer and the nail had nothing to do with the actual construction site, but there he was, banging away, talking about his HomeBuilder program and how good it was—how many local jobs it was going to produce, how ridgy-didge it was, how bona fide his commitment was to Aussie values and Aussie jobs. He was about one jingle off a cork hat. That was him promoting his commitment to Aussie jobs.
But it was all fake because, at the same time—at the exact same time—that the Prime Minister was doing that photo opportunity in Geebung, his Liberal mate the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Adrian Schrinner, was announcing that he had taken the decision to give a contract worth millions of dollars to a Chinese company to produce buses for Brisbane City Council. That's not a new thing for Brisbane, because Brisbane buses have been made in Eagle Farm in my electorate of Lilley since 2013. Volgren do it, and they used to have 130 workers at Eagle Farm who made buses, and it was part of the pride and joy of north-side manufacturing—just like we used to make the electric trams, back in the day, on Melton Road in Northgate, before that got shut down; just like we used to make and service trains before Campbell Newman's state government, back in 2014, made the decision to outsource that to India.
Year after year, we have Liberals waltz in here and praise themselves for their commitment to Aussie jobs, while, actually, on the ground and in the streets, they are the first ones to sell the businesses in our communities out the door—sell them to China, sell them to India—and it happened again last week. I cannot believe that I've have had to listen to—what is it now?—60 minutes of self-praise by the government, while their Liberal mates are selling a contract worth millions of dollars to the Chinese to make buses that actually should be being made on the north side, in Eagle Farm, by Volgren workers, who take pride in their job. Sorry I'm so worked up, because I am so sick of hearing about the announcements without any delivery: announcement, announcement, announcement; reannouncment of the announcement; 'How good is the announcement'; 'So great to be here reannouncing the announcement'; absolutely no delivery; absolutely no follow-through; and jobs walking out the door to China and to India again and again and again.
When we talk about the manufacturing industry in Australia as a whole, we need to consider that we lost 50,000 jobs in manufacturing alone last year. That's more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs a week. Each week last year, 1,000 Australians lost their manufacturing job under this Liberal Morrison government. Those who clung onto those jobs, those who still have a job to call their own, this week learnt in the federal budget that they would receive a real cut to their wages next year, and not just a small cut—a $7,800 real cut to their wages. That is just part and parcel of this Liberal government's ongoing commitment to slashing trades and vocational education, the place where we build skills, the place where we train apprentices and the place where Australian kids can get a foot on the ground and carve out a dream for themselves—a career for themselves—in their communities.
We have lost 150,000 apprentices under this eight-year-old government. There are 150,000 fewer apprentices than there were back in 2013. That's because this Liberal government, which is eight years old, has cut $3 billion from vocational education and training. That's a pre-pandemic figure; we don't have the new figure yet. Imagine how much worse it is now.
If COVID has taught us anything, it's that we must put Australian jobs and Australian manufacturing first. We've got to do it. It's been eight long years of despair and disrepair in this industry, and it's got to stop. Using the power of government—why we are all here and why we all sweat blood to get to this place—we should be transforming our economy and we should be powering up manufacturing in our industrial neighbourhoods like in Virginia, like in Geebung and like on the north side of Brisbane.
An Albanese Labor government would deliver national reconstruction and would be fairly, squarely focused on good, secure jobs. We will establish a $15 billion fund to invest in local industry and put Australian jobs first. We will rebuild the manufacturing industry. We will develop sovereign industrial and research capability. It is time Australia had a federal government that is actually on their side and not on the side of the Liberal's mates.